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Chicago Commuters Comment on Bush's 'State of the Union' Speech - 2002-01-30

Millions of Americans watched or listened to President Bush's State of the Union Address Tuesday, and polls suggest most Americans were satisfied with what the president had to say.

Among those waiting for Chicago-bound commuter trains in the suburb of Berwyn, about half said they watched the president's speech. Dave Smid said he was satisfied with what Mr. Bush had to say.

"I thought it was excellent. I thought he captured a sense of the country," he said. "I think he was correct saying that even though we have had a lot of bad things happen over the last year, I think the country is stronger because of it."

With the twin concerns of the economy and the threat of terrorism hanging over the American people this year, some people, like James Rivera, were looking for some answers - or at least some reassurance.

"The economy does not look like it is doing so well, and as for the war in Afghanistan, it is not quite clear yet how that will work out either. It is going to be an ongoing thing," Mr. Rivera said.

The president asked the U.S. Congress to approve his tax-cutting proposal, while also increasing spending for both the U.S. military and for local agencies involved in protecting Americans at home.

For commuter Bob Schab, both proposals are important. "They go pretty much hand-in-hand," he said. "If you are starving at home, what good does it do to fight overseas? But you have to protect the homeland."

President Bush said the 19 suicide hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks against America were just a small fraction of the terrorists trained in Afghanistan.

Mr. Schab agrees that while things have been quiet since September 11, this is no time to wind down the war against terrorism. "Until they are gone, we are not safe," he said. "You saw what happened. Everybody saw what happened. If it did not hit home you would not see it and you would not believe it, but now you do."

Mr. Bush also said his proposals would require the federal government to spend more money than it takes in for the first time in four years. This return to deficit spending does not worry Dave Smid. "I think it is going to be a reality we will have to live with, with trying to have both a guns and butter economy," he said. "We are trying to fight a war at the same time we are trying to stimulate our economy. It seemed like a reasonable policy to me."

A survey conducted by the Gallup polling organization suggests 97 percent of Americans think Mr. Bush's policies will be at least somewhat effective in fighting terrorism. Three-quarters of those surveyed say they think Mr. Bush will successfully lead the country out of recession.